Tactile vs. Sterile

I may be in the minority…but for me, reading has always been a tactile experience. My parents owned almost no books, and rarely purchased us kids books so almost all my reading (and I read A LOT!) was from libraries.

I also have an affinity for old books. It may sound weird, but I love the musty smell of old books. That combined with the feeling of a book in your hand, the physical turning of pages.When the option is available I almost always buy second hand books.

Mind you I also love the feel of a new book. The new book smell…knowing only you have turned those pages. My daughter looked at me funny when she bought in one of her Christmas books for me to read and I said “Are you sure you don’t want to read them first?”.

The girls father and I have always been book worms. I remember some of the fondest memories I have of those first few months together involved us snuggling up on the lounge or in bed, each reading a book. As our family grew it was not uncommon to have a baby playing with a book in between us while we were each reading. Being surrounded by books and being read to as little ones lead our girls to have the same love of reading as us.

It wasn’t until we started homeschooling though that we really took stock of what we had in the way of books in the house. We had a handful of cook books, some photography books (mine), some webdesign books (his) and tonnes of kids books. We also had a few novels lying around but we have always visited the library at least once a week so we hadn’t bothered to collect much. So we started buying books. The week before we started homeschooling I hit up the local op shops and came home with a set of children’s encyclopaedias. Shortly after a set of 68 books on the body joined them. Then a set of 20 science books. Novels started appearing on the shelves as we started to collect the Penguin Classics. Each curriculum choice we made involved also purchasing reference books. Now we have approximately 500 books lying around the place with our two small bookshelves over flowing.

Then last year, just before our separation, a last ditch present came from the girls father (he has always been good at the last ditch big gesture) and he came home with a 32g iPad for me. I was slightly irritated at the money spent on something that seemed like a bit of a gimic. I love my iPhone…but I am not a hardcore apple fan…I find their products over priced and a bit ridiculous….pretty yes, but not my thing. When he told me I could download a kindle app for it I was a bit miffed. I hated reading on my computer screen and always thought reading was a tactile experience…what the hell was I going to do with this thing?

I did find there was some great educational apps available and that filled a fair chunk of it. I put games on it for the kids and for the most part didn’t use it. Then I discovered magazines for the iPad. I have always loved magazines, but hated paying for them. Too pricey for something I would just have to throw out. I loved the idea of them being mine for life…even if I filled up my iPad I could archive read magazines to my computer and restore them any time. Then came cook books. I love cooking but turning pages during cooking with messy hands is a tad difficult…a little swipe and being able to wipe down the glass – well that was very appealing. But reading books….nope couldn’t get into it…it was just too…sterile.

One of the things I loved about my iPhone was that if I was in bed at 2am and had a song come into my head, I could jump on iTunes and download it and be listening to it 30 seconds later. As I had spent a lot of time in bed this was appealing. So one night I lay there in bed, bored, miserable and a snoring person next to me. Even if I could turn on the light and not wake him, what was I going to read? So I went on amazon on my iPad and downloaded the first thing that caught my eye…then read it all the way through. It didn’t hurt my eyes the way reading on the computer did. I didn’t need the light on. It was instant gratification. Then I discovered that most of the classics are free. I read a lot of Shakespeare and Greek and Roman plays at school so the classics aren’t too difficult for me to read.

My kindle library is growing every day. I also discovered a lot of the girls texts needed for various curriculum can be downloaded and while I prefer to have a hard copy – now that they all have iPods being able to have two of them reading the same book at the same time …. well it’s handy and saves fighting.

While my kindle library is growing, our hardcopies are also growing. Not more than a day or two goes by when another book depository package arrives (or second hand books – homeschooling classifieds are an amazing resource of cheap, good quality texts). I don’t think the ebooks will ever replace my love of physical books…but with us flying to sydney in a week I know that my bag will contain my iPad and not a bunch of physical books.

What about you – electronic or hard copy?



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